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NIH Funds Botanical Center in Iowa to Study Health Effects of Echinacea and St. John’s Wort

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced a 5-year, $6 million grant for the establishment of a research center based in Ames, Iowa to study two botanical dietary supplement ingredients, Echinacea and Hypericum (St. John?s wort). Echinacea is reputed to ward off colds and other infections, while St. John?s wort is purported to combat mild depression.

The new Center for Dietary Supplement Research brings together two traditionally strong research institutions, Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The Center Director, Diane F. Birt, Ph.D., chairs the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University and is an expert in nutrition and its relation to disease. Other Center scientists have expertise in toxicology, medicinal pharmacology, clinical medicine, epidemiology, nutrition, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, botany, horticulture and statistics.

“The new center joins five other centers to move the NIH into exciting scientific areas relating to dietary supplements used by millions of people in the U.S. and around the world,” said Paul Coates, Ph.D., ODS Director. The new Center for Dietary Supplement Research joins established NIH Centers located at the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Missouri; Purdue University along with the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and the University of Arizona. The various centers are being funded by the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, NIEHS, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and other organizations within the National Institutes of Health. The Centers are expected to greatly advance the scientific base of knowledge on botanicals, including issues of their effectiveness, safety, and biological action. NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., who also directs the National Toxicology Program, said, “The herbs and supplements we take into our bodies are important parts of our personal environments. We want to know about their potential effects, good or bad, which is why our National Toxicology Program is conducting herbal safety studies and why we are excited about the Iowa Center?s look at potential benefits and identification of biologically active constituents of botanicals.”

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, (one of the National Institutes of Health), is the principal federal agency for research and training on the effects of environmental agents on human health. It is the only one of the institutes not headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, and is in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The mission of NIEHS is to develop knowledge that will permit the better management of risks associated with body exposures to or processing of environmental factors or agents. Within this mission, the NIEHS supports research, including relevant nutrition and dietary supplement research, investigating the effects of chemical, physical and biological environmental agents on human health and well-being. For more information, please visit NIEHS on the Internet, at

The Office of Dietary Supplements was established at NIH in November 1995 as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act passed by Congress in 1994. The mission of ODS is to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, stimulating and supporting research, disseminating research results, and educating the public to foster and enhanced quality of life and health for the U.S. population. The ODS expects to continue to fund investigator-initiated awards as a means to expand research opportunities in the area of dietary supplements. For additional information about ODS and the NIH-funded botanical Consumers can find more information about the ODS and the NIH-funded botanical centers, please visit our website at

StopGettingSick Team

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